Friday, July 30, 2004

Preparing for New York

The New York Times editorial page gave a (mostly) positive review of Kerry's performance last night.

The take him to task for his continuing failure to: provide a clear vision on Iraq. Voters needed to hear him say that he understands, in retrospect, that his vote to give President Bush Congressional support to invade was a mistake. It's clear now that Mr. Kerry isn't going to go there, and it's a shame.

Regular readers will know this is a view I share with the NYT.

The editorial also looks forward, as do I, to the Republican response to many of Kerry's rhetorically savvy indictments. One possible counter, they say, will be Republican accusations that Kerry is overselling "a rather brief episode in his career," warning Kerry that he should devote time to his other accomplishments.

In many ways, this is true - we don't need a one-trick-donkey. However, since one of the most, if not the most, fundamental issues of this campaign is Bush's decision to wage war in Iraq. And while there will (or should) come a time when we won't have veterans, we do have them now. But that isn't even the whole issue. This isn't a case of veteran vs. non-veteran. It's a case of combat-tested, purple-heart winning, toss-me-in-danger veteran vs. chickenhawk who, along with his buddies, used many excuses and methods to escape service because, as Cheney has so artfully explained it, Vietnam just was a priority for them.

And don't throw Clinton at me - I didn't like it about him either - but at least he didn't try to appear to be serving while really not serving. He also acknowledged his failings during his speech Monday - an unusually graceful thing for a politician to do.

I would hope that Bush et al. wouldn't be audaciously foolish enough to adopt a "yeah, but what have you done lately" line as a way of defending their own chickenish behavior. But the Administration has yet to disappoint us by failing to live up to its own lowered expectations.

I think I can safely say that combat experience changes a person. No, I have not been myself, and I was born well after the war, but I am the proud daughter of a Vietnam veteran. But despite our best efforts to turn 19 year olds into automatons capable of killing when ordered, they retain their humanity and all actions have consequences - not all of them immediately apparent.

Kerry's service is no small thing. It should not be used to excuse any mistakes he's since made. But it should also never be diminished - especially by those so willing to let him go in their place.

From US-Centered Media Circus to US-Centered Media Circus

Ah, the Olympics. Yes, it's been 4 years since the last games - just about enough time for NBC to accomplish their own herculean feat of producing enough hours of human-interest material to keep us interested in shotput, discus, and synchronized swimming, since, of course, the ability to actually watch the sports is out of the question.

Here's an idea. Since August brings us Our Big Fat Greek Olympic Games, why not really go old school: make 'em play naked. No, really - in ancient Greece, nudity was the games' great equalizer, says one Berkeley archaeologist. It's all about democracy, see. With no clothes, there were no indications of class or status. Just perfectly tuned human forms, competing purely for one, top prize.

Frankly, I'd think even without clothing, male athletes would find some way to distinguish themselves - considering how much time they spend distinguishing themselves on such bases when fully clothed. But this is a family website, so I'll just leave it at that.

"Simple crown[s] of vegetable matter" were the prizes back then - and just for first place. Already that's more fun than just hunks of precious metals (and is bronze precious anyway?). Add to that athlete's greased with olive oil and you're halfway to a salad -- or a PETA demonstration.

So - start buying Big Macs, join 24 Hour Fitness, drive your Buicks, drink some Coke, pack your Kodak camera, don't forget your Visa, grab some argonauts and head for Greece - you have just 14 days to get ready for 16 days of pure, unadulterated American jingoism. On your marks . . . .

Thursday, July 29, 2004

Technical Difficulties and Technical Achievements

A Multimedia Post

[Edited and reposted] The audiopost below isn't the one it should've been. The real one - the funny one with 3 interviews and fun background noise lost its way between my phone and my blog. Its memes are lost. I mourn it. Okay, now we'll move on.

The audiopost that is there is a rundown of some of Kerry's speech highlights. It didn't need to be an audiopost - but hey, if you have the technology . . . . sure impressed the people I interviewed with it at the Marriott. (Uh, too bad about it not working in the end.)


San Francisco Democrats who couldn’t make it to Boston managed to mock up their own convention-like event. Comedy Central’s Daily Show convention episodes have opened this week by saying they were coming to you live from Boston, featuring: “black people; trial lawyers; abortions for everybody; organized labor; godless sodomites; and a parking lot full of egg shaped hybrid cars.” I suppose the same promo would work for a San Francisco event . . . .

The first Marriott post caught some of the noise and flavor of the event. As it turns out, if you want to attract curious on-lookers - carry a pad of paper with you and scribble notes. One woman came over to me and just stared at what I was writing until I looked up at her questioningly. She asked for whom I was writing. I shrugged and said, “myself.” When I told her I was a blogger, she gave me a truly pitying look, hugged me, and left.

The next guy asked the same question. I told him I was a blogger. He said, "What's a blogger?" I asked him if he was joking. He wasn't. This means I met the only person in the country that doesn't know what blogging is by now. Or maybe it isn't the year of the blog after all. What? No one's called it "the year of the blog" yet? Huh. Interesting.

At any rate, Don, one of my interviewees, said this was the first Kerry speech he's listened to. He's new to politics, prompted to join the melee by Matt Gonzalez’s campaign last year. Fittingly, he used to be a Kucinich supporter. He seemed enthused, though not wholly won over, by what Kerry had to say. Fellow Emerge alumna Sheila Chung was glad to hear Kerry take back some of the "Republican" words and ideas that she feels have been unfairly co-opted over the past few years: values, religion, god, the flag, you know, everything the right has accused the left of ignoring, blaspheming, and burning.

For the first time, tonight, Kerry seemed human to me. He was funny at times, speaking of being grounded by his parents, being literally in the same boat with his band of brothers. He missed some of the key self-deprecation opportunities Clinton would've done well with, such as his status as part of the top 2% to be taxed. Overall, he was strong, persuasive, and on-message (though parts of that message still trouble me).

Policy-wise, my main complaints lie in his tax plans and, of course, his hawkish talk. The DLC -certified read-my-lips moment in which he again allowed the middle class to dream big dreams and absolved them of thinking about paying for them made me miss Howard Dean. At least Dean was honest - you want programs A, B, and C, that's great me too. Who's going to pay for them? It’s not that I dislike the middle class – I am middle class, though of course, am aiming higher per requisite American dreaming. This JFK, surely at the behest of the DLC, differs from the last JFK because he seems to encourage Americans to ask what their country can do for them and validate their tightfisted doing-nothing for the country.

Kerry’s meta-theme, of course, was the war. He started well, “reporting for duty” (a line not appearing in the official version, but capitalizing well on the Veteran laden lead in). He touched early on equality for all women in America – but left out any mention of reproductive rights or equality for ALL Americans. The lack of the former was refreshing – this was the least NOW/NARAL-heavy Democrat event I’ve ever seen. I love full control over my uterus, but I think bigger, more pressing concerns such as the war got the attention they deserved this week. The lack of the latter is disappointing, however, in terms of racial/ethnic equality – Barack Obama and John Edwards covered those themes. The gay marriage issue didn’t get any primetime coverage as far as I saw. Frankly, if the choices were leaving the issue completely out of Kerry’s speech or having him try to convince us that “civil unions” – which are not “marriage” – count for equality, I’m glad it was ditched entirely.

Besides those two large gorillas, labor, unions, and agriculture all took a backseat last night, as guest blogger Jim Pinkerton points out.

Kerry hit hard on themes of truth, war, and improvement. He occasionally indicted Bush, naturally, but set aside blaming in favor of saying we can do better, and that we can only do better armed with truth, preparedness (and, apparently, 40,000 more servicemen and women):

But we're not finished. The journey isn't complete. The march isn't over. The promise isn't perfected. Tonight, we're setting out again. And together, we're going to write the next great chapter of America's story.

We have it in our power to change the world again. But only if we're true to our ideals – and that starts by telling the truth to the American people.
“There’s nothing more pessimistic,” he said, “than saying America can’t do better.” That thought drew some of the loudest applause from the crowd with which I watched his speech.

At one point, he thanked those supporting his primary opponents for coming together now. This drew less applause in the Marriott, as I, and probably many, enjoyed their last, wistful moments of Deanophilia.

Kerry emphasized his firsthand knowledge of combat, saying “I know what kids go through,” pledging further that he will “wage this war with the lessons [he] learned in war.” It will be fun to see what rhetorical antics the Reeps develop to answer those across-the-bow shots at their candidate.

John Kerry, famed for his haughty, complicated manner, delivered a “pedestrian” speech, according to one Phoblog friend. His diction may have been toned down, but his higher-calling rhetoric pulled at the idealism of the San Francisco crowd last night. There was a nearly palpable need to believe in what he was saying – at its most powerful, perhaps, during this section:

And tonight, we have an important message for those who question the patriotism of Americans who offer a better direction for our country. Before wrapping themselves in the flag and shutting their eyes and ears to the truth, they should remember what America is really all about. They should remember the great idea of freedom for which so many have given their lives. Our purpose now is to reclaim democracy itself. We are here to affirm that when Americans stand up and speak their minds and say America can do better, that is not a challenge
to patriotism; it is the heart and soul of patriotism.
The success of Kerry’s speech, I suppose, lay less in his ability to deliver a message than it did in our – the Party’s – need to hear something to believe in. I still have questions about Kerry on the war and his vote for it – but since he’s the nominee, I needed something moving last night. In that respects, in key ways and phrases, such as above, he delivered.

It was a call to action (except on paying taxes) and a promise of action. He built on Obama’s blue-state/red-state rhetoric – talking of family values and faith. Taking a note from wife Teresa, he too quoted the other party’s patron president to attack the president’s divine-right nonsense directly: “I don't want to claim that God is on our side. As Abraham Lincoln told us, I want to pray humbly that we are on God's side.”

He never achieved audience-participation on the “where was George” level. “American can do better. Help is on the way,” were the best efforts to telegraph today’s headlines to news editors across the country. Building on the idea that we’ve only just begun, the phrase “what if” led a segment on science the possibilities ahead.

Towards the end, you have to figure he had a box of fortune cookie style upbeat-o-grams that were cut from other segments of the speech. Not to worry, he dumped them all in at the end:

That is the kind of America I will lead as President – an America where we are all in the same boat.

Never has there been a more urgent moment for Americans to step up and define ourselves. I will work my heart out. But, my fellow citizens, the outcome is in your hands more than mine.

It is time to reach for the next dream. It is time to look to the next horizon. For America, the hope is there. The sun is rising. Our best days are still to come.

Sun? Check. Dream? Check. Best Days? Check check.

Kerry is always technically proficient. If he were an ice skater, he'd get 6.0s on technical achievement. Where he's needed to improve is on artistic impression scores. I think he definitely scored better tonight than I've seen yet. What this means in terms of bounce is anyone’s guess (though not for long, since I’m sure phones across America are already buzzing with pollsters). The better question, however, in American politics is how last night’s speech effects the expectations game. Kerry needed to give the speech of his life – and by some accounts – he did just that. I’m eager to see the Bush response in August as well as what international events happen (or “happen”) between now and August to throw wrenches in various party(s’) machinery.

I suppose now I should catch up on the punditry on last night’s performance.



this is an audio post - click to play


"Boston" Photo Gallery, Vol. II

Okay - so maybe it's not Boston. It was hot, crowded, and full of Democrats - does that count?


Look! Delegations! Just like Boston! Sadly, my neighborhood appears underrepresented. Posted by Hello


Look! John Kerry! Just like Boston! Except closer than the real California delegation would be. Posted by Hello


Our interviewees, Don (if I messed up your name, I hope you visit the site and correct me) and Sheila. Trust us, they were brilliant and insightful in their analysis of Kerry's speech. I hope the visit and comment . . . . Posted by Hello


What? Who put Fox News on? For the record, this was the TV on the right-side of the bar. The left-hand TV played CNN. Posted by Hello


Look! That ice sculpture says "DNC2004" - in 50 years, I won't remember that this wasn't Boston! It doesn't say San Francisco, does it? Could be Boston - you don't know! And hey - who's that? Why, it's your own Phoblographer - the trench coat helped the "please, I'm covering this story" image. That and a pad of paper and presto - instant journalist. Posted by Hello


Get it? Posted by Hello

CD at the Marriott SF

this is an audio post - click to play


So, there were two posts live from the Marriott, but, sadly, checking in now, I see only one. Don't know what happened. We had two interviews on the other post. Oh well - have to do some detective work . . . . Quite disappointing - so I hope you enjoy this post.

Boston Photo Gallery, Vol. I

Who's House? Dems House . . . .


Many have commented that the convention has shut down the city, cost local businesses customers, and probably hurt more than helped the Boston economy. Clearly, however, from the blog coverage, to the punditry, to this clever convention guide, it's a boon to the journo-industrial complex. Posted by Hello

Bad Dem, Bad Dem, Whatcha Gonna Do?


Doesn't it just make you feel warm, fuzzy, and secure? Cops in riot gear always make me feel better. Anyone else note the lack of, uh, people anywhere in the streets? Harkens back to LA and the DMZ they set up around Staples center. Posted by Hello

--Photos by Phoblog Guest Blogger Ed Espinoza, via cameraphone

The Honest Guy's Critique of George W. Bush

Or, "George Bush, Master of Failing Upwards."

Apparently, Ron Reagan's DNC speech on stem-cell research barely scratched the surface of his contempt for the current administration:

Does anyone really favor an administration that so shamelessly lies? One that so tenaciously clings to secrecy, not to protect the American people, but to protect itself? That so willfully misrepresents its true aims and so knowingly misleads the people from whom it derives its power? I simply cannot think so. And to come to the same conclusion does not make you guilty of swallowing some liberal critique of the Bush presidency, because that's not what this is. This is the critique of a person who thinks that lying at the top levels of his government is abhorrent. Call it the honest guy's critique of George W. Bush.

And that's not the half of it. I'm not sure if Reagan writes or ghostwrites his opinion, but it's biting either way. I'll paste the whole article in comments, below.

Capitalizing on Partisanship: It's The American Way


Okay. But did anyone remind them that Heinz was a Republican Senator? As Teresa Heinz Kerry said during the 60 Minutes interview earlier this month, "those very same people never criticized my late husband for his money or his wealth. In fact, they used it - and his money was just dandy." Posted by Hello

Ed! Live from a Boston Taxicab . . . .

this is an audio post - click to play

California DNC member Ed Espinoza sends an audiopostcard on the action so far and the day ahead.

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

New Look - Same Great Taste!

Good Morning - welcome to the last full day of our Live From Boston coverage here at Phoblographer*. If you scroll down and see above - you'll find audiopostcards from guest bloggers Rocky Fernandez and Ed Espinoza. Plus, be sure to catch Jim Pinkerton's Tuesday special report, if you haven't yet (that's 100% Phoblog original - if you like his stuff, and you should, catch all his convention coverage at Newsday and his regular columns, too).

Site Status Update

You may notice some changes around here this morning also. We've added some zip to the top of the page, our Phoblographer* title now links back to the main page everytime - so you won't miss a thing - and we've modified some of the post layout.

Also - to those syndicators out there - that's up and running too. We've ditched the less-than-reliable XML feed we had, opting instead for Bloggers feed service.

The comments are still there - the buttons are just more artfully understated. Look for them at the end of the link/author line. They aren't hidden, just give your eyes a moment to adjust. Also, our permalinks display better, too.

Special thanks to Phoblog's web-guy-extraordinaire, Josh Orum from Loud Dog for all of his uncompensated effort on giving you the best looking Phoblographer* possible. Between him and our half-marathon training, we're looking hotter already . . .

Tonight's Festivities

I'll be posting tonight from at least one San Francisco based speech-watching party. Want to watch Kerry accept the nomination in the company of friends yourself? Check out the Kerry website for a guide to parties in your area. I'll be with the SF Democratic Party at the Marriott (4th off Market) for at least part of the evening - bring your $25 and stop by. Free viewing is also avaliable with the San Francisco Young Dems at Temple Bar (Polk at Turk - in the 'loin, take a buddy).

Enjoy the new site. Go give Loud Dog business if you need web services. Watch the speech tonight and post your thoughts here at Phoblographer*. Thanks for reading!

The Rocky Report

this is an audio post - click to play

Guest blogger Rocky Fernandez reports live from Fleet Center.

The Rosenthal Report

Alix Rosenthal checks in from Boston, saying:

I haven't had a hard time finding free food, but I've also been very lucky to have been able to talk my way into nice parties with food. As for security, it is really really tight at the Fleet Center. Between the cab and the floor, no fewer than a dozen people checked my credentials, several of whom handled them to make sure the hologram was legit. It was crazy. It's pretty effective, though, from what i can tell.

The 'free speech zone' is abhorrent. It is essentially a huge cage, where all protesters are confined. I would expect this of the repubs, but US??

[Ed note: There was a "free speech zone" in Los Angeles as well - so it's not a new concept. And for as much as the conventions are getting covered anyway, I don't think it really matters . . . .]

Wouldn't Do It for Arnold. Would Consider It for Granholm

Ah - so she's what they were talking about when they argue that it's not just the California governor who'd benefit from a constitutional amendment allowing foreign-borns to run for president. Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm is addressing the delegates now. She's good. Impressively so. She's what you'd want a woman president to be - at least on the surface, I know little of her politics or policy preferences - she's well spoken, open, inspires confidence, and yes, she's pretty, too.

She also sounds a little like Joan Cusack.

Eat Their Food, Vote for (or Invest in) the Other Guy

Today, SF Chronical online poll asks whether convention delegates should attend "opulten corporate-paid parties?" Unsurprisingly, 71% of respondents say "No, puts them in pockets of special interests," while only 22% say "Yes, might as well have a good time." (7% say "Just bring me some maple bourbon glazed turkey).

Unscientific, sure - but par for San Francisco, I'd assume.

I've yet to be a delegate myself - but I have talked my way into my fair share of convention/political events. Here's what I remember about the sponsors: very little. Including, most importantly, who they were. I remember the food or entertainment, but not the host.

I can recall with fondness that the best reception I went to while interning in DC waybackwhen was hosted by VW. They had good food, we got to sit in pretty cars, and there were wonderful goodybags at the end - with toy cars and everything.

I drive a Ford.

While it's probably true that, according to NPR, most delegates are older, wealthier, and more educated than the average American, most aren't what I'd call "wealthy" and many had to spend lots of time and effort fundraising to get to Boston and pay both registration and hotel costs (for a California delegate, those were estimated to be about $2-3k).

I doubt many are running out to support whomever gave them the crabcakes or sushi.

I also routine attend state party convention events for candidates I have zero intention of voting for (but thanks, anyway, for the free pen, Mr. Lockyer).

I'll listen to arguments about campaign contributions tainting elected officials - but not about free wine and cheese tainting delegates.

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

KeyNotes

One news outlet promo-ed the keynote address thusly:

Tuesday night's keynote address to the Democratic National Convention will be delivered by one of the youngest members of Congress, 30-year-old Rep. Harold Ford Jr. of Tennessee. Although Ford is regarded in media and political circles as one of the fastest rising stars in the House of Representatives, he is virtually unknown to millions of U.S. households, many of which are just now paying attention to the looming November battle for control of Congress and the White House.

Yeah, you're right, that was the 2000 keynote speaker - but wait for the comparisons, they'll come. Some other comments from the CNN story linked above are also just a few details off of being relavent again. In 2000, Bradley was the alternative candidate that was still popular and prominently featured at the convention. Tonight, we had Howard Dean. In 2000, I was in Staples Center to hear Harold Ford, Jr. (someone I'd see previously, in 1996, in DC, address our group of young leaders as an impressively young leader himself) - and I liked what I saw. He may not be a household name yet, but maybe someday.

Tonight's keynoter, on the other hand, is less worried with being a household name nationally than he is with being an household name in Illinois. He's the Dem nominee for US Senate there – Barack Obama (we’ve talked about him before). Tonight was the first time I’ve seen this newest phenom in action, however.


Gary Hershorn/ Reuters

He’s got a great American Story – the son of an immigrant Kenyan and his Kansas-bred wife, he began his speech by invoking classic American dream imagery, American as a beacon of opportunity, etc. His father was a goat-herder, his maternal grandmother was a WWII Rosie in the factories.

His was a “common dream born of two continents.” And his name means “blessed.” At various other points in his speech, he would invoke his story as part of the larger American story, and that this convention was a gathering to affirm the greatness of our nature. We have “faith in simple dreams, insistance in small miracles.”

He mentions that his name was given in a country where a name is no barrier to success. I couldn’t help but think how in some cases, it can be a be a key – think of the stars (ballot and box office) who’ve re-embraced their ethnic handles.

Obama was a competent speaker with a compelling story – he moves a bit too much on his feet, his hands fluttering and punctuating in a manner that probably works better with Rotarians than it does on a national broadcast.

Toward the end of his speech, he warmed up, got looser, and seemed comfortable enough to raise the energy level. He highlighted his “fundamental belief: I am my borther's keeper, I am my sister's keeper.” He even quoted cash – E pluribus unum - and they say Dems ignore money stuff.

Obama’s best self-summation: he’s “the skinny kid with a funny name who believes America has a place for him too.”

But wait! There’s More!:



Ron Reagan took the stage like the prodigal son (except, you know, not), lapping up attention and applause with that same clam-happy glee he had on MSNBC last night. He took pains to make sure we understand politics has nothing to do with his gig: the “topic at hand should not, must not, have anything to do with partisanship.”

Reagan speaks strongly, and carries a good schtick – but comes off perhaps a little too showy. There’s an almost an infomercial quality to his presentation. Like any minute he’ll start shilling for Ronco: “It's the StemCellReplicator 3000! Buy now and get the FidoRegenerationomatic 4.0 for only 19.95 plus shipping and handling!”

But, fundamentally, I agree with his point, so I’m willing to cut him some slack (in the spirit of bipartisanship, since I cut Obama some as well).

“The theology of a few,” he said, “should not forestall the well being of the many. How can we affirm life if we abandon those whose own lives are so despeartely at risk?”

One coverage note, at this point - you'd think C-SPAN would do better than highlight the "stars" for many of the reax shots. I don't know which Baldwin I just saw, but he needs a haircut and probably a bath.

In one of the better, thinly veiled jabs at Bush, Reagan said, “we have a choice: between true compassion and mere ideology.”

Did he say “so vote for John Kerry?” No. But he did say, “this November cast a vote for embryonic stem cell research.”

I love ya tomorrow/you’re only a vote away:



Meet young Ilana Wexler, founder of Kids for Kerry - apparently fresh from "Annie" auditions (she will someday kill her mom for that haircut). Her rehearsed feel plays much better than Reagan’s because, hello, she’s 13. She’s full of precocious zeal that I want to hate but just can’t resist cheering for by the time she reaches her wide-eyed, winking Dick Cheney joke as she calls for a National No Name Calling Day. (“When our VPh had a disagreement with a Democratic senator - he used a REALLY BAD WORD. If I used that word, I'd be put on a time out. I think he should be put on a time out.” cue the group Awwwww.)

She close with: “To summarize. Teresa Heinz Kerry - inspirational and amazing. John Kerry - American hero, next president.”

(She'll qualify for Young Demcorat membership on her next birthday.)

[insert stock Heinz 57 joke here]:


Chang Lee/The New York Times

Teresa Heinz was introduced by both the warm and fuzzy video and her son, Christopher Heinz – all in an effort to take the edge off her “shove off” persona. It was good – perhaps not totally effective. But despite her lack of Elizabeth Edwards’s warmth, Teresa carries a quiet gravity that came through in her life story – one that made a nice companion piece to Obama’s earlier speech. Her son may have tried to win over some voters with stories of packed lunches and applied band-aids, but it speaks well of the delegates that her riffs on the noble opinionated woman and the march against apartheid garnered more honest approval than the hidden-domestic-goddess anecdotes.

Normally, I can’t stand slow talkers, but when I finally relaxed and just listened to her, I saw the power in how she was saying (note I didn’t say “what,” though that comes too, in parts).

She opened by showing off her linguistic skills, greeting Americans in each of her 5 languages, welcoming them to “our conversation” as we “work toward the noblest purpose of all – a free, good, and democratic society.”

She gave a girl-power shout-out, hoping that one day women would be called smart and well informed like men, instead of opinionated like – uh – Hillary Clinton (who, by the way, was stony and petulant in each C-SPAN supplied reaction shot). It’s also worth noting that she wears completely nonsensible shoes – slender heel, pointy toe and all. Brava.

For supporters of a new fuel economy like me, she offered her husband’s belief that “alternative fuels will guarantee no American boy or girl will go to war because of our dependence on oil, [and] that our economy will forever become independent of this need.” Sounds good to me.

She closed with Lincoln (another Obama/Illinois connection) and the better angels of our nature just waiting to be summoned – and guess who’s ready to do the summoning?

What surprised me most about tonight’s prime time line up – was that by the end, despite the painfully obvious stagecrafting and over-prepared speakers – I had managed to put aside blogging, race handicapping, punditing, and any attempt at even analysis (ie: what are the other guys going to hit us on about tonight?). By the end of Teresa’s speech, I had stopped watching as Phoblographer*, critic, and started watching as cd, lifelong Democrat, desperate for change.

In short, I was, for at least a brief moment, ready, willing, and looking forward to voting for Kerry – not something I’d have expected Teresa to inspire.

In truth – it’s the greater event influencing me – Clinton’s stellar speech and remembering fondly all the past conventions of my lifetime: laying on the living room floor, coloring in a map of the country, looking for my Dad in the 1984 San Francisco crowds, riding the Red Line back to my motel after Gore’s speech in 2000. Conventions aren’t newsworthy. They aren’t going to solve the problems. They won’t fix Kerry’s problems, nor force people to believe that Bush lied. But they remind us – Democrats – who we are and why we are and where we want to go. Unabashedly, proudly, obstinately donkeys. All of us.

The trick is getting this feeling to stick for the next 100 days.

Ghosts of Conventions Past

While I'm here working on posts about tonight's speeches, I have CSPAN on still. The camera and audio are lazily panning the Fleet Center catching the exodus of delegates, the general meandering of stage crew, and the sounds of crowds surely deciding to which party they should funnel their energy.

It's a familiar sound, comforting. I'm not there, and I'd be lying if I said that didn't bug me - hourly. Since 1998, I've missed few party events - having caught every state party convention, many e-boards, the 2000 national convention, and even the New Hampshire primary this past January.

But at least I know what it feels like there, how to navigate the crowds, find the food, free drinks, collect the good signs, rare buttons, scavange for credentials, make friends, and network the hell out of each and every after-party. I know the smell of a climate controlled arena, the feel of confetti in my hair, the sound of amplified political rhetoric and wince-inducing feeling of thunderous applause.

It's a homelike to me as the smell and feel of government buildings and campaign headquarters (I grew up crawling around LA city hall and later poured juice at candidate pancake breakfasts). I can't help it. I am that nerd. Thanks Dad. Thanks Mom.

Under the Media Big Top with a (Hungry) Jim Pinkerton

Another installment from guest blogger Jim Pinkerton

Boston – Reporters get no respect. It’s a good thing we don’t have to work that hard. I mean, let’s face it: sitting around—even walking around—isn’t exactly shoveling coal.

That’s always been true, of course. But now it’s getting for worse for the reportorial class. The era of Big Government might not be over, but I’m afraid that the era of Big Media is—are?—over.

Whereas once conventions—I’ve been going to ‘em since 1980—were luxe and plush with free food for anyone with a press pass, now everyone’s scrimping. So no Pharaohonic buffets for us; no groaning tables fit for kings and queen. We’re mere plebs now, here amidst the downscaled expectations—for true news, as well as for gustatory gusto—here at the Fleet Center media tent. We line up patiently for free food from the single corporation willing to spend money lobbying the likes of us: Bell South. And though the price was right—free, not counting the humiliation of queuing up while our badges were closely inspected—this exercise in Southern hospitality wasn’t much: just free hotdogs and free sodas.

Of course, the alternative was even less appetizing. To venture outside the Fleet Center was to confront the trauma of getting back in. (The restaurants seem empty here; between money-chintzing visitors and other-tourist-scaring-away security, it’s going to be a lot harder to sucker cities into hosting the ’08 conventions.) Downstairs at the media tent (curiously, it’s a two story tent) is a single outlet was peddling $6 nachos--they'd be $2 at Taco Bell, maybe $4 at a movie theater. And even that price-jack-up-stand was running out of food; I suspect that vendors, too, are having a hard time getting victuals in to this place.

So why the bitter rain of pouring tears and the empty-sigh sound of emptying wallets? What went wrong?

Four reasons:

First and most frightfully, changing economics. All that competition from cable, from bloggers, from functional illiteracy. The scenario we Fourth Estaters face is akin to the dilemma of the porn industry, circa 1980, as depicted in the movie “Boogie Nights.” In the 70s, smut-on-screen gained steam; revenues rose, and so, commensurately, did XXX-film budgets and their production values. Smutsters dreamed heroic dreams of porn epics. But then came the VCR; so the pleasuring—oops, I meant pleasure of viewing—of porn movies traveled from movie theaters to VCRs. And so the industry shifted from a relatively few high-budget films to an infinity of low-budget videotape jobs. To be sure, the San Fernando Valley has weathered the shift—it’s flourished, in fact--in terms of aggregate work and profits, but each unit of output costs much less, and is worth much less. And so it is, too, with the non-naked media—there are more of us, and total revenues have increased, but less money is spent on each of us. One could say that we are each worth less; we are drones now, expendable beans, loosely cared for in the pods of the bean counters. At least we get to keep our clothes on.

Second, the changing media landscape. If competition takes away the surplus rents of reportorial rentiers, a different kind of competition has taken the swaggering out of the chattering class. Rush Limbaugh, the Drudge Report, Fox News—the true axis of evil, in the opinion of many journos—have finally beat The Press. To be sure, a lot more people still consume the mainstream media, but the sort of moral and intellectual monopoly that old-line reporters once enjoyed is gone. Not so long ago, CBS News would go to, say, the GOP convention in Dallas and declare, simply, “Reagan stinks.” (OK, they were slightly more polite than that, but that’s what they meant, and everyone knew it.) Nowadays, everyone looks at news in a new light: reporters realize that viewers, readers, and clickers have choices, and so everyone is much more careful about ideo-gregiousness. Which, of course, takes away a lot of the fun of being a pundit.

Third, Howard Dean. Remember him? He was the Media Darling earlier this year, on all the covers and front pages, and yet he finished third in Iowa. The media, reminded, once again, of institutional weakness, are now stuck with John Kerry, whom they don’t really like. But then again, who does like him?

Fourth, Ron Burgundy. You know, the character played by Will Ferrell in the film, “Anchorman.” After half a century of riding high, reporters are finally being “Ted Baxter-ed,” which is to say, everyone’s on to us. All our airs, all our pretensions, all our vanities—bonfired. I’m not a press-basher in the sense that I think reporters are deserving of being scourged, flogged, and drawn-and-quartered—certainly not drawn-and-quartered—but it was inevitable that the dialectical wheel would turn and that people, including us ourselves, would realize just how risible many of the journalistic canons truly are. To be sure, there’s still such a thing as truth, but Jonathan Swift could do a better job of revealing it three centuries ago; all he had was a quill pen. So it doesn’t take much to skewer the media, but now, the skewers have some heavy weapons—cameras of their own. Oh look—there’s Jon Stuart.

So where will it end? I suspect that in the future, the bloggers—who are to journalism what the VCR was to porn, the harbinger of cost-crash--will inherit much of the earth. That is, a lot of “journalism" will be done by anyone and everyone just reporting on whatever they see out his or her window. And if said window happens to overlook Iraq, or Laci Peterson, or anything else that could be construed as man-bites-dog, then that’ll be the “news” that’s available to us. Moreover, since everyone will be online with a computer, then “blogger” will become an even less exclusive term—it will be a synonym for “minimally media-savvy observer.” Now that’s democratization of the media. And then there’ll really be no such thing as a free lunch for reporters.

But of course, in some ways, this Blog New World will be really cool. I’m astonished by this the seeming infinity of blogs out there--fresh, intelligent, interactive content, thousands of people participating in a giant conversation. Thanks to blogging, the Net will become the neural pathway of our collective consciousness, as Neuromancer predicted two decades ago. It’s no longer a downward flow of information, it’s a circulatory system. And how do you get paid if you’re just another corpuscle?

So who will get paid for opinions? I’m not the first one to say this, but pundits will be patronized—that is, they will receive stipends and subsidies from patrons, e.g. The Christian Science Monitor, NPR, al-Jazeera, Lyndon LaRouche, the Fortune 500, the Neocon Cabal.

And this future is coming: I see the headline on the dreaded Drudge Report today:

THE BIG YAWN: NETWORKS IN RATINGS FREEFALL AT CONVENTION, OPENING NIGHT ALL-TIME LOW: ABCNEWS JENNINGS WITH 3.5 RATING/5 SHARE [DOWN FROM 4.5/8 IN 2000]; NBCNEWS BROKAW 3.3/5 [2000:4.8/9]; CBS DAN RATHER 3.2/5 [2000:3.8/7... TRAIL ALL OTHER PRIME-TIME MONDAY PROGRAMMING [CBS:MIAMI RERUN ON CBS PULLS 8.6 RATING/13 SHARE]... DEVELOPING...

To be sure, one could take this as a criticism of this dull convention, even than as a criticism of the coverage. But the politicians are smarter than us: they’ve long since arranged their own system of stipends and subsidies, which get paid no matter how boring they might be.

-- Jim Pinkerton

SEIU Chief Goes a Wee Bit Off Message

You want fundamental policy and Party conflict, look no further:

Stern argued that Kerry's election might stifle needed reform within the party and the labor movement. He said he still believes that Kerry overall would make a better president than President Bush, and his union has poured huge resources into that effort. But he contends that Kerry's election would have the effect of slowing the "evolution" of the dialogue within the party. . . . .

"It is a hollow party," Stern said, adding that "if John Kerry becomes president, it hurts" chances of reforming the Democrats and organized labor.


Phoblog reserves her comments on this for the time being . . . .

More on Conventional Unconventional Convention Coverage

Got that?

This is a Wash Post piece on off-beat convention coverage of the non-blog, Jon Stewart variety.

Wonkette's Ana Marie Cox gets covered not for her blog, but for her gig as MTV's convention correspondent. As regular readers know, I'm no Wonkette fan (she snaked a witty name and isn't using it for actually wonking - which is just wrong), but I have to give the devil her do for this line on the consequences of MTV's "no suits" commandment for her convention garb and the resulting converse footwear:

"If terrorists attack, I'll be able to run out of the building," Cox says. "Surviving a terrorist attack is the new black."

(of course, again, this article is just further proof that the meat of the Dem convention just isn't there. Wait, we're Dems, maybe we can't have a meaty meeting out of concern for our vegan and vegetarian delegates . . . )

That D@$%&* B Word Again


Bloggers keeping up with events at the convention. (Don Bartletti / LAT)

When there's no news to cover, cover the coverage (apologies to stealing the News Watch tag line) - and this year - the coverage is about bloggers. They're good, they're bad, they're not being the good source of unfettered journalism we'd hoped for, they're a breath of fresh air, they're goofy, they're a fad, they're there.

The LA Times site has a rundown of political bloggers by category. Also, a feature called Convention Blog Watch that's a synopsis of both substantive coverage and the pace of blog coverage (ie, "All quiet on the blogfront: Bill's talking - The longest lull of the day occurred after bloggers lauded Al Gore's speech.") - how's that for minutia?

MSNBC's Hardblogger: Unconventional convention coverage has a list of all the DNC-credentialed blogs.

Of course, MSNBC's use of "unconventional" to describe bloggers may already be dated. With everyone and her brother blogging this covention - take us, for example), blogging is already a tired buzz word. And for the really bitter take on bloggers and their role in modern media, check out this L.A. Observed post and the comments fest that follows.

Seems there's a lot of anger from some parts of the 'sphere about bloggers not doing what they should be doing (whatever that was to begin with). To the nay-sayers, I say what I say to the crabby posters flamming content on SF.Metroblogging - don't read it. You aren't paying for it, it's not invading you house, it's not accidently on TV at a hair salon, in fact, this is the absolutely least intrusive form of media I can think of (even newspapers can accidently end up on your lawn, or purposefully as part of a promotional effort).

We're mad when people don't engage in the public forum - then we're made when they do. I say, blog on . . . .

Update: From the LAT Convention Blog Watch - some links to blog-bots - they surf for you and give you a one screen run down of everything you didn't know you wanted to keep up on:

In addition to Technorati: Top 100 and Truth Laid Bear's Traffic logs, there's a third surfbot to help users surf political blogs. CNN and Technorati have partnered to deliver Blog Watch . This bot is fast, has a powerful search and segments blogs into three groups: liberal, conservative and blogs being written from the convention.

Random CYD Sighting



No, I don't know the girl in this photo, but I do know the guy in the white shirt in the left background. He's none other than former CYD President and Phoblog friend Ed Espinoza, in Boston this week for the Democratic National Convention.

If all goes well, check back later today for updates from California Young Democrats in Boston for their take on the goings-on . . . .

Ca-ching! California Has a Budget

So, California has a budget built around no new taxes, few spending cuts, and borrowing. Gee, sure glad we elected a reformer to pump up our fiscal state.

Look forward to another 2 years of pre-arranged $10bil deficits, oh, plus we'll have those other bonds the Governor urged us to pass as well.

And don't pop the cork yet - lawmakers still have to vote for the agreement (meaning Dems who made an escape to Boston have to come home - sure they'll love that, and Reeps have to make peace over the borrowing).

And for the record (from the LAT):

But in the end, it took the governor longer to reach an agreement on the budget than it did for his predecessor, former Gov. Gray Davis, last year — when voters cited their frustration with late budgets as a reason for recalling Davis.

Of course, most of the sticking points had nothing to do with the budget: how school districts contract for busing; how, when, and where yachts are taxed in the state; and - more closely related - the 25+ year battle over local government funding. But no need to worry about those - as it turns out, most of those things are already being talking about as subjects for, what else, ballot measures.

Makes you wonder why they wasted time arguing at all - why not go straight to the ballot in the first place? Because they won't get per diem? Because it might show how unnecessary they are?

I like to think it's because there's still a shred of respect left for the legislative branch - but with Arnold around, I doubt it . . . .

Monday, July 26, 2004

Send John Kerry

Clinton hits 'em outta the park, one after another . . . .

Stregnth and wisdom are not opposing values.

That's already the sound bite of the day, if not the week.

Also - He gracefully acknowledged his own shortcomings when it comes to service:

During the Vietnam War, many young men including the current president, the vice president and me could have gone to Vietnam but didn't. John Kerry came from a privileged background and could have avoided it too.

Instead he said, send me


My personal favorite - and I'm paraphrasing here because I can't find a transcript yet, his line about how we'll have to play better with others because we can't invade, occupy, and kill ALL our enemies.

Thank you, Mr. Former President.

Also of note - the younger Reagan (who, by the way, seems clam-happy in his co-hosting gig with Joe Scarborough) interviewing Michael Moore on MSNBC. Moore is a guest of the Congressional Black Caucus, who are giving him an award this week. He's also screening his movie for union members . . . . And the pundits punditing on whether Party people are distancing themselves from Moore now, whether his techniques are good for the Democratic Party. I suppose only time will tell.

More from MSNBC - Reep pollster Frank Luntz praises Carter's line about how Bush can't claim to be the war president one day and the peace president the next. Luntz says the line is brilliant, as it starts highlighting Bush's frequent "I am a War President"-ing at a time when Americans want peace. Could we be witnessing the birth of the Great Democratic Talking Point of 2004? We can only hope, because that "flip flop" thing the other guys have is pretty good . . . .

Update: Finally found the other best line of Clinton's speech - "we live in an interdependent world in which we can't kill, jail or occupy all our potential adversaries." Amen to that.

LA Politics On Location In Boston

LA Weekly's Harold Meyerson is blogging from Boston as well (under the Weekly's clever header, Boston Baked Blogs) - noting, among other issues, how LA Mayoral politics are playing out within the California delegation with current Mayor Jim Hahn and several of his official or soon-to-be-so opponents all attending the festivities.

Of special note - his discussion with Phoblog's own Congresswoman Jane Harman, who's dem-trend-bucking vote a few weeks back helped sink an amendment to the Patriot Act (she was one of only 4 Dems to go against the party. Of the other 3, as Meyerson points out, were 2 targeted conservative Texas Dems who were DeLayed in the recent redrawn lines and one random Washingtonian).

Her reason? Well, prior to this piece, I'd heard that she generally wanted to see a larger-scale scrapping of the Act. To Meyerson, however, she explains that she was concerned over disallowing government monitoring of on-line traffic from libraries - and she thought she could do more later under friendlier conditions, next year, to fix the Act.

Meyerson aptly tags this making perfect the enemy of the good - a phrase to which Howard Dean clung during his NPR aired debate with Nader earlier this month - which didn't slow Harman from taking off for her next event.

Answers like that, of course, aren't going to help Harman realize her dream of a more friendly political environment . . . .

Dukakis Redux? Maybe. Caption Contest? Definitely.



This photo has some pundits asking if we're seeing Kerry's Dukakis-in-the-tank-moment. For those too young to remember (or those who are new to the political thing), Dukakis was our party's last nominee from Mass. who managed to mess up frequently and who was undone by great oppo-researchers who found a little factoid about a guy named Willie Horton . . . . The photo back then was of a mousy Dukakis poking his head through the top of a tank in an oversized (maybe just on him) helmet.

Personally, I don't find it overly objectionable - but I can see how it could fall into the hands of those who'd have a field day with it. (Oops, too late - I got this from Drudge).

I can't help but recall that one of the primary lessons I learned at a campaign management training conference a few years back (besides always spending your last few bucks on direct mail) was: under no circumstances should you ever allow your candidate to try on any hat or t-shirt he is given at an event. Which begs the question: how'd Kerry's peeps let him into an entire suit? Drudge doesn't post a more descriptive caption - so I can only assume the costume was part of a Cape Canaveral visit.

Of course, I also heard his first-pitch at a Yankees-Sox game ended up in the dirt - much more easily damaging, symbolic footage. Of course, Bush ate it again on his mountain bike - so maybe it's a zero-sum day in terms of sports/politics metaphors.

But you know - it's a shame to waste a captionless photo . . . So have it, kids. But let's make it a Convention Caption Special - all captions should be timely, politically relevant, and blatantly partisan on either side.

Update: Seems the Reeps would like to make this Dukakis-y.

By the way - for those unfamiliar with it - here's the pic that launched a 1000 jokes:



(Oddly enough, this doesn't look as bad as it did in my memory. I think I was remembering a political cartoon. I also can't help but think that the only reason Bush didn't get mocked for his full-flight-garb insult was that he's a marginally better looking man with the benefit of incumbency)

From the field: Security and the WC Situation

An update from Jim Pinkerton:

CD's QUESTION: Jim, can you give us a feeling of the security measures in place around Fleet Center? I've heard reports about long wait times and difficult hoops through which delegates and observers must jump just to get inside. What's the deal?

JP's ANSWER: Nah. I heard horror stories, too, but was actually pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to get in, at least at the east entrance. The line was shorter than at National Airport in DC, and the metal-detecting/wanding was a breeze. (Oops, I let the secret out!) There's not much in the way of free food--those bean counters!--but the temptation, in situations such as this, is to eat all the time.

The only real romplaint I have is that the bathrooms for the press tent are outside, a ways away from Tribco workspace, and are merely portajohns. But even then, there's no wait.

[Ed. Note - I'm concerned about this lack of free food. My constituents - the Young Dem set - especially count on the free flow of food to survive, since I'm sure they've spent all available capital on getting there and finding lodging. Plus, conventions are all about grazing. I'll have to get someone on that story . . . . I'd also be concerned with forcing the press into portapotties. If there's touchier group of convention attendees, I don't know who they are.]

Update: Josh Marshall also notes the underwhelming nature of convention security - likening it to LA or Philly 4 years (and one terrorist attack) ago. I was in LA in 2000 and found it quite easy to get into Staples Center despite lacking the proper credentials (or at least, my own credentials) for doing so. And I wasn't the only one, of course. I'd guess the same is true in Boston today and will be true in New York next month. . . .

Sunday, July 25, 2004

Privilege, Protestors, Profiteers and the Party of the People

Boston – The Democrats may be The Party of the People, but some people get special treatment. I learned that as soon as I got off the plane at Logan Airport yesterday; I was waiting in line for my cab when Congressman Jerry Nadler, Democrat of Manhattan, went walking by. Escorted by a volunteer from the Democratic National Convention, he neatly cut in front of me in the taxi line. That was an annoying bit of perksmanship. But today, I was reminded that some people truly deserve special admiration—a category that does not include Nadler.

Meanwhile, other Democrats, too, reminded me that egalitarianism is mostly just a party slogan, not a personal practice. At a party for People for the American Way on the Harvard campus, everyone was supposed to ink their name on the little sign-up sheet. But not James Carville—he just blew right past the interns sitting help helplessly behind the desk.

Other Democrats were nicer, albeit snug in their cushy environs. I watched an amiable-looking Michael Dukakis amble across the restaurant at another joint not associated with horny-handed sons of toil, the Four Seasons Hotel. The former Democratic governor of the Bay State, whom his party ran for president in ’88, is now in his 70s, but he looks great. He still has lots of bushy hair—I couldn’t get close enough to tell if it was all real. (I figured that this jovial occasion of posh eating was not the moment to walk up and introduce myself, perhaps to remind him that I had worked against him in that campaign 16 years ago.)

OK, those are my bigshot-spottings.

Since nothing is happening today—not that anything newsworthy is likely to happen tomorrow—I figure I will go watch protestors.

There’s a designated protest-zone near the Fleet Center, but it’s enclosed by a cyclone fence. One protestor I saw on TV called it “Camp X-Ray North,” referring to the Taliban/al-Qaeda detention center operated by the US government in Guantanamo, Cuba. I’d say that it looks like the place where the Jets and the Sharks rumbled in “West Side Story.” Either way, it’s clear that The Party of the People doesn’t want to hear from the people. So instead, the protestors have converged on Boston Common, which has been the hub of civic life here for nearly four centuries.

But the Revolutionaries and Abolitionists who once raised their voices are long gone. The signs, buttons, posters, and tee-shirts read, “Free Mumia” and “Free the Cuba Five.”

I turn down a chance to buy the newspaper Socialist Appeal, the headline of which reads, “The Democrats are the Real Enemy.” But I accept a flyer from the Freedom Socialists—an oxymoron, in my view—which argues that there’s no real difference between Bush and Kerry. I get a sense of where these guys are coming from when I read such rhetorical questions as, “Is fascism at hand?”

Speaking of fascism, I see a man walking along wearing a tee shirt that reads, “Panzerfaust Records.” The original panzerfaust was an anti-tank rocket used by the German army in World War Two, which is to say, used to kill Americans. Hmmm. This new Panzerfaust, according to its website—I am typing this at a Starbucks with WiFi—is the “home of white power music.” Hmmm again.

All the while, of course, while I am walking along, surveying these written ideology-rants, someone is ideo-haranguing in the distance. I hear bits of speeches, e.g. “The American Dream is nothing but a nightmare for the working class.”

Amidst the drone, the most eye-catching protest is more of a display—a minor flesh show. These are the women of “Axis of Eve”—get it? They’re youngish females in body suits and bikinis; I can’t tell if they’re protestors, publicity-seekers, or profiteers, maybe all three. In any case, they’re selling panties inscribed with such naughty cleverisms as “Lick Bush,” “Expose Bush,” and “My Cherry for Kerry.”

Enough of this, I think to myself. Time for a little genuine inspiration. That means a walk to another corner of the Common, to the frieze dedicated to Col. Robert Gould Shaw and the black volunteers of the 54th Massachusetts Infantry. Their heroic story—they died fighting Confederates in South Carolina in 1863—is told in the movie ”Glory,” starring Matthew Broderick and Denzel Washington. But it is best remembered here, in the city where Shaw was born.

Shaw was a protestor of a different sort. Fired up by the cause of ending slavery, he volunteered to fight for freedom and union in 1861. Two years later, he was killed. He was 25. The inscription on the monument reads in part, “But the high soul burns on to light men’s feet/Where death for noble ends makes dying sweet.”

And I thought to myself, There’s a protestor really worth admiring. It’s hard to imagine another set of heroes, so fired up by selfless idealism, coming together like that again. On the other hand, I know someone might say, if a truly noble protest came along, maybe you wouldn’t even recognize it. Still, I’m pretty sure that history will never hold the celebrants of socialism and cop-killers in high regard.

Next, I find myself in this Starbucks. And then something surprises—and moves—me. It’s a protest of a much different kind. No hackneyed leftists, no misplaced anger, no sexual bravura. It’s a peaceful procession by the Falun Gong, or Falun Dafa. Their brothers and sisters are routinely and energetically persecuted in China by the Beijing regime. As best I can tell, Falun is a peaceful program of physical exercise, mediation, and philosophy. And if it has a political component, too, that’s fine—it’s a free country.

Oh wait—China’s not a free country. And so they are imprisoned, tortured, and killed over there. Here, they can protest, and they do—in the thousands. The procession along Boylston Street is polite, but it’s so numerous that it takes half an hour to pass by, as the cops stop them every so often to let cross-traffic through. Some hold signs in Chinese and English, others hold flowers, others hold pictures of those murdered by the Chinese government. The parade even includes a gruesome float, depicting people tortured and killed; it’s an image from Madame Tussaud’s dungeon.

And it hits me: if China ever becomes a free country—free for speech, not just for big business—then these Falun Gong people, bearing polite witness to tyranny, will deserve no small share of the credit. And so maybe, someday, the Faluns will be remembered on the Boston Common. Remembered, that is, not for being jerks or vamps, but for upholding the liberating and self-sacrificing tradition of Shaw and the men of the 54th.

Souls don’t get much higher than that, and neither does memory in history. If there’s any inequality that’s earned, it’s in the aristocracy of virtue and self-sacrifice that’s not dead, even if it’s often martyred.

--Jim Pinkerton

Saturday, July 24, 2004

Phoblog Gump

Posting will be light until tomorrow afternoon. Phoblog's running a 5 mile tomorrow morning in Sacramento. . . .

Scroll down and play the comments games we have going . . .

Meet Our Guest Bloggers

Regular readers will know that I've been running promos about our Phoblog Boston Reporters. And their big week starts Monday. So here are some brief introductions and biographies of our first two special guests:

Rocky Fernandez, Political Director, California Young Democrats:
My name is Rocky Fernandez and I'm from Castro Valley, CA. I'm currently the Political Director of the California Young Democrats, in addition to a bunch of other roles in my local Democratic Party.

I'll be out in Boston to enjoy the atmosphere, take part in trainings, meet other young Democrats from around the nation, and promote the hell out of YDA by the Bay, next year's national Young Democrats convention to be held in San Francisco.

I hope to get somewhere near the Boston harbor so that I can live out one of my life-long dreams-chucking some tea in the water like our founding fathers so bravely did in opposition of King George. This year, it seems so appropriate.


Jim Pinkerton, Columnist, Newsday; Fox News Contributor:
James P. Pinkerton has been a columnist for Newsday since 1993. Prior to that, he worked in the White House under presidents Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush, and also in the 1980, 1984, 1988, and 1992 Republican presidential campaigns. [Ed.note - see, we're fair and balanced, we got a Fox News dude blogging for us.]

Pinkerton is the author of What Comes Next: The End of Big Government-And the New Paradigm Ahead. He is also a contributor to the Fox News Channel and a Fellow at the New America Foundation in Washington DC. His work has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, Foreign Affairs, Fortune, The New Republic, National Review, and Slate.

Alix Rosenthal, Deputy City Attorney, First-timer:
Alix Rosenthal, former President of the San Francisco Elections Commissions, recently because a Deputy City Attorney for a large Bay Area city.

A native of Claremont, California, Alix is also an alumna of Emerge: women leaders for a Democratic future, a program for Bay Area women with a mission to identify, educate, and inspire Democratic women who want to pursue elective office at the local and state level in California. This is Alix's first trip to a national party convention, and she's along for the ride and - like any good politico - the networking.

Ed "Ed!" Espinoza, DNC, General Party Fixture:
Ed Espinoza was elected to the Democratic National Committee in May in San Diego. A former President and National Committeeman of the California Young Democrats, Ed has been involved in party politics since, well, forever.

Ed hails Long Beach, making him Phoblog's across-the-bridge neighbor, and currently works for America Coming Together in Washington, DC.

More to come . . . .

Of Truth and Libel Laws

So Clinton's life isn't the same across the pond.

To all my friends preparing to head for law school this fall . . . look out - that need for truth will really get you down for at least the first few months.

But don't worry. You'll get over that . . . .

Friday, July 23, 2004

Inadvertent Oversight of a Mistaken Misunderstanding

How many negatives have to be stung together to make this seem less like one big covered up uncovered up mess?

Whoops - Bush's payroll records were destroyed. Whoops, whoops - here they are!

Like records released earlier by the White House, these computerized payroll records show no indication Bush drilled with the Alabama unit during July, August and September of 1972. Pay records covering all of 1972, released previously, also indicated no guard service for Bush during those three months.

The records do not give any new information about Bush's National Guard training during 1972, when he transferred to the Alabama National Guard unit so he could work on the U.S. Senate campaign of a family friend. The payroll records do not say definitively whether Bush attended training that summer because they are maintained separately from attendance records.


The newly found records still don't answer all the questions. But I'm sure it's the first in what's sure to be a fun upcoming week of Reep news nipping at the heels of convention news cycles.

It's all downhill from here . . . .

And You Thought Gmail4Troops Was a Nice Gesture

Thanks, uh, I think, to Phoblog Junior Military Analyst Josh for this link to Operation Take One For The Country. Apparently, it's an unofficial organization of women who are supporting our departing troops by, uh, just go read the site, you'll figure it out.

There are too many jokes here that just write themselves. Suffice to say, I guess the President has asked us to support our country and troops however we can . . . .

The Operation, or OTOFTC, for short, is kind enough to provide a page of links if the Operation's mission is not for you.

Keep it clean on the comments, kids - this is a family site.

Noncitizen, Nonvoter, Not for Long

Well, I guess since I've already come out against letting minors vote, I suppose the only way to give school kids power in their districts is if their parents vote. But this might not be the best way to do it.

San Francisco is considering a measure that would allow noncitizens to vote in local school board races.

Reaction is predictably mixed.

"I studied the books. I took the tests. I became a citizen," he said. "If you don't want to be part of America, but suddenly you want to vote, that's not fair." - from one 47 year old Chinese immigrant.

Noncitizen parents deserve more say in the public education system because they make up a growing population of the city's schools, said state Assemblyman Leland Yee (D-San Francisco). Yee has offered to draft a constitutional amendment if voters pass the initiative in November.

But, rining in on a more reasonable note is Supervisor Fiona Ma:

Fiona Ma, a city supervisor, disagrees with the notion that parents who are not citizens need to vote to become more involved in their children's education. And, she said, giving noncitizens the vote would have other implications. The only Chinese member of the supervisors board, Ma opposes the measure.

"If we pass this thing, we will open up a Pandora's box," she said. "Yes, there are many immigrants in the school system, but voting is an honor, a privilege."


I'm with her - except on that last part about voting being a privilege. It is an honor, but it's also a right. Period. Driving is a privilege, not a right, remember? But it's a right for citizens of this country. That's all you have to do to get the right - become a citizen (voter disenfranchisment notwithstanding).

This proposal will inspire much passionate debate, I'm sure . . . .

I Can Name That Tune In 4 Votes

A trio of pieces on the dangers in choosing a campaign theme song.

The first, linked above, says: "As much as the Democrats will try to look united on other issues, the party is in a dark place when it comes to campaign theme music." Ouch.

The second, delves into the tricky world of Springsteen lyrics, opening with the good point that the Boss has a history of writing songs that seem like a good idea from the title or opening line, but aren't so feel-good when you listen to the words.

Reagan invoked "Born in the USA," once, until:

At some point after that, one of his staffers must have actually listened to "Born in the U.S.A." ("Got in a little hometown jam/ So they put a rifle in my hand/ Sent me off to a foreign land/ To go and kill the yellow man.")Reagan didn't name-drop Springsteen again.

Third, some reader suggestions for the candidates' theme songs. Uh - oh, reader suggestions? You know what that sounds like? Why, yet another comments contest! Submit below, please.

From the Chron offerings, highlights include: For Bush - When You Wish Upon a Star, for being "the theme song from a Disney movie about a puppet who has issues with the truth;" For Nader - Carly Simon's "You're So Vain;" For Kerry - well, there aren't as many fun ones for him.

By the way - the misuse of American music for political, or sales, purposes, is something I've covered before, here and here - both stemming from Kerry's use of Lagnston Hughes's "Let American Be America again."

Farming the Fertile Crescent

Sometimes truth can make you shiver.

From a Chronicle article on luck, serrendipity, and 9/11. Al Qaeda learns, from mistakes, from success. Highlighting our shortcomings by the way they point them out, I find it troubling and surprising that we are surprised by the organization's ability to adapt and change. Each example of organizational flexibility is related with a sense of breathless awe, like that scene in The Secret of NIHM when it's revealed what the NIHM injections have done . . . "We could read." These aren't mice. They aren't lower life forms. Dark skinned and Allah-worshipping as they might be, they are humans. All creatures adapt. Humans can do it with reason. That's one of the ways we won the evolutionary jackpot, remember? We can learn.

From the article:

"Al Qaeda is an organization, but it is also a social movement linked together by an idea," he said. "We're doing well in fighting against a few people, but not against the movement. It's almost trivial to take out the people because there's already a next generation ready to take their places. . . ."

"We're going backwards," he said. "We have had some tactical successes, but the war in Iraq is a strategic failure. That has become the new terrorist training ground."


What have we sown in the fertile crescent now?

Idiot Boxes

From Jim Pinkerton, on real results of the 9/11 Commission, especially its foolish structural antics - its ineffective shuffling of boxes only to "[put] them back in the same place:"

Consider, as one example, the commission's suggestion of creating a "national intelligence director" to oversee the 15 federal intelligence agencies. That's a nice-sounding idea. But we already have such a centralizer, whose title is director of central intelligence (DCI). That's right: the post commonly called "CIA director" is, in fact, the same director of central intelligence. That's been his title ever since the National Security Act of 1947 created the Central Intelligence Agency and tasked the DCI with coordinating intelligence government-wide.

As a second example, the commission proposes establishing a counterterrorism center inside the White House to become the "authoritative knowledge bank" for homeland-security efforts. That, too, sounds like a pretty good idea, although again it was first thought of 57 years ago; the National Security Council (NSC) is another product of the '47 National Security Act.

So one might ask: If the war on terror is the No. 1 national-security threat to the United States, shouldn't the National Security Council be tasked with that mission? If the current NSC isn't up to the job, we need a new NSC staff, not a second NSC-ish outfit operating in parallel. . . . .

Yet another recommendation is going to face a tougher fate: The commission wants to consolidate congressional oversight of counter-terror functions. This is a good idea - which is why it will probably never happen. Such consolidation would uproot turf of perhaps two dozen committees on Capitol Hill.

At this red-hot moment, no member of Congress is likely to come out publicly and say that personal perk- and pork-protection is more important than protecting the country. But House Speaker Dennis Hastert has already said that legislative action is unlikely this year; in 2005, after memories of the commission have faded, one can only wonder what Congress might be working on instead.

Besides, Washington today is atwitter with speculation about "pants-gate" - the apparent classified-document-pilfering committed by Bill Clinton's national security adviser, Sandy Berger.

Berger's misdeeds underscore the basic flaw in the commission's report: people matter. The catastrophe of 9/11 wasn't a failure of organizational charts; it was a failure of personnel. One can argue about the apportionment of blame, and to whom, but it's simply a dodge to say that institutions, as opposed to individuals, were at fault.

In making its critique, the commission has asked for bureau-structural response. And such a response, however duplicative or delayed, will be forthcoming. But the notion of personal responsibility, as well as political accountability, will suffer another blow as new flow charts crowd out the obvious need for new and shrewder people - for folks who can anticipate terror trouble, not because they are in the right box but because they are in the right frame of mind.


Amen to that.

It may seem anti-big-D-Democrat to say I'm not for growing the federal government - but I'm saying it anyway. At least, not when it will only complicate and diffuse the real issues. No, no one wants to be at fault, no one wants to lose his job. . . .

We need newer, better people, not newer, better titles.

This is the way the world ends, not with a bang, but a commission.

Meanwhile, Back on the Blog

The other blog that is (remember, I blog over at SF.Metroblogging, too, because you just can't keep a good blogger down).

Here's my take on Eve Ensler's The Good Body, now playing in San Francisco.

Thursday, July 22, 2004

Blogs Are Not Discreet

Miss Manners, whom Phoblog likes tremendously, weighs in on proper blogging etiquette and shares some nicely-put insight on blogger personalities, likening the act of blogging with that of keeping a diary:

With a diary, the danger was that someone might sneak a peek at it or even steal it and expose one's secrets. With a blog, the fear is that nobody might do so.

How true.

But Miss Manners is less concerned about the well being of over-sharing bloggers than she is about blogger's treatment of others (pssst, Wonkette, this might directed at your type of blogger). The polite person, she says, "gossips discreetly, and without malice" - acknowledging that people can and will gossip no matter what.

And with that, it seems that pretty much everyone who can has weighed in on blogging . . . .

The Demford Wives

As profiled in this NYT article, A&E airs a documentary tonight on Washington Wives, or more precisely, Dem candidate's wives.

The show (which I'll try to catch and comment on), seems to hold up Mrs. Edwards and Mrs. Kerry as the stereotypes you'd imagine, the former open, down-home, real; the latter, upper-crust, out of touch, rich - though the article says the documentary is a bit more fair and evenhanded in its presentation.

Of the article's more noteworthy quotes from the show, some advice from writer and hostess - and wife of Ben Bradless - Sally Quinn who says, "understand that this is about your husband, and not about you."

Isn't it usually?

Anway - more on the Edwards/Kerry juxtaposition (though both are rich, the Kerrys just act like it more, don't they?). The article uses the Fox reality show "Trading Spouses" (good lord) as a comparison point - it too relies on the tried and true, fish out of water formula. Think "The Simple Life" or "Green Acres" or "Overboard" or 1000s of other "hey look at the rich lady deal with the poor folk" hijinx.

I find it trying. Sure maybe Theresa does look a bit foolish and out of touch (or that's how she gets edited). But why do we, American Dreamers, have such a beef with the rich kids?

In the 60 Minutes Interview, earlier this month, Theresa Kerry answered a question about Republican attacks based on the ticket's megamillionaire status:

"I find it un-American for people to criticize someone and say they're not deserved for any position whether because they have too much or too little, or because they're black or they're white. That's un-American."

Of course, it's as easy to make fun of that answer - in all it's "don't hate me because I'm beautiful" granduer - as it is their bank accounts. But there's a valid point. We teach our kids the American Dream - you work hard, you dream big, you can be Bill Gates, you can be Donald Trump, you can have a bigger house than your parents and keep a stable of SUVs. Play the market. Buy real estate. Win consecutively on Jeopardy. Play the lotto every week.

But god help you if you win because you will lose your humanity instantly. By achieving the American Dream, you become its enemy - part of the corporate corruption, greed, capitalist piggishness that's ruining our churches, homes, apple pies, and grandmothers. And so much the worse if you're a woman - then you're a rich, lazy, out of touch, feminine waste of space who is the enemy of the American Dream.

It's okay to want to be rich, but not okay to be rich. But maybe it will be okay to be rich, so long as you don't act like it - don't speak too well or you'll betray your ivy covered education.

Just another impossible standard, it seems.

'Big' News Days Can Make For Small Blog Days

Or: Everything I Needed to Know About National Security Organization Management I Learned from a Sandra Bullock Movie.

I've been asked, more than once, why I don't post long analyses of big breaking events - like today's release of the 9/11 Commission report. There are several answers to that question.

1.) Contrary to what one friend asked yesterday, no, this is not all that I do. I have a totally non-blog-related job in the real world that likes it when I, you know, get work done.

2.) More importantly that that, however, (because "I ran out of time" isn't ever a really good excuse) sometimes these "Big News Events" just aren't. That is to say - we've know this report has been coming, we kinda knew what it would and would not say, and we knew it was going to be covered to all hell by everyone else. You want coverage, just pick a paper, any paper, and read the front page. Keep checking here for the witty insight, but since I don't have the report in front of me to read right now, you'd do better with The New York Times anyway.

3.) Of course, since it's still me here, I have reactions to what I've heard so far, mostly from NPR's coverage of the commission statements this morning. Listening to the chairman's harrowing account of just how unprepared we were and how vulnerable we are now while driving across the Golden Gate put me in a great mood, I can assure you (not that I think the GG is a valid target - the symbolic destruction would be pretty, and everyone's commute would suck, but the body count just wouldn't be high enough). I was left with a sense of defeat - a certainty at that moment that widespread mayhem was a moment or two away and no one, not Kerry, not Bush, no one, could protect us.

We weren't ready. No one knew what the other guy was doing. The other guy didn't want the other other guy to know what he knew. No one knew what al-Q-agent X was doing or where he was, but they knew he was coming and they knew he was here. Someone knew there were helping hands in Iran and Pakistan (damn and I thought Pakistan was all helpful Harriet, too), but clearly that didn't get to Bush et al in time (no, of course it did, and no/yes it has nothing/everything to do with the Iraq war).

The best news came in the recommendations section, when I heard the commissioners say they did NOT back the idea of a new security agency. Though they do favor a new, oh here's that stupid word, czar to oversee the mess of hapless intel we have now.

Here's where Sandra Bullock comes in.

In the beginning of Miss Congeniality (stick with me), Sandra Bullock's Gracie says that before they go into to Texas to save the pageant from a crazy bomber, they should call the locals to avoid a turf war.

A turf war.

It ALWAYS comes down to that. It's the hubris of American (probably world) law enforcement. Who gets the credit? Whose backyard? It's like reverse NIMBYism, it's PIMBYism - please, in my backyard, so my guys, my unit, my department can save the day because everyone else is an incompetent halfwit and if we give them the information they'll botch the investigation and if they think they're so smart then why don't they just go their own way and we'll go ours and we'll see who gets there first and solves the crime and resuces the girl in the whole or the country from the next -

BOOM.

Too late.

Adding someone else to the mess won't fix it. Fire everyone and start over with a new paradigm. Groupthink never dies, it just gets thought in another room.

So that's my post on the big news of the day. For more, check Josh Marshall's Talking Points Memo (though he's preoccupied with the Berger fiasco - which is a whole 'nother rant), this NYT article where we learn "Panel Warns Deadlier Attacks Are Likely," this Wash Post headliner on how we doomed ourselves by refusing to acknowledge the sky could fall, or better yet, go to the NPR site for the primary source, the commissioners press conference (you can also access the report, exec summary, and related primary documents from here as well - and probably a ton of other sites).

And when you get done having a few moments of well-earned, some-large-number-of-us-are-going-to-suffer-really-ugly-tragic-untimely-deaths panic, relax with this bit of biting comic relief from Josh Marshall:

Possible Bush slogans ...

1. Not as terrible as it could have been!

2. Four more years and we'll be safe!

3. Peace!

4. Incompetence and exaggeration, not bad-faith or lying, as shown in two recent reports!

5. Are you better off today than you would have been today assuming that that idiot Al Gore had won four years ago and he was president instead of me?


In fact - those five are a good start for some audience participation (assuming you've read down this far in the post). Our caption contests yield some fun results - so why not enter your own idea for a possible Bush slogan in the comments below.

[Ed. Note - If you arrive at a post via a direct link - ie, something past the general www.phoblographer.com address - make sure to use the 3d party comments software, not the "Post a Comment" Blogger link. It's a glitch I'm working on.]